Welcome to my new interview series featuring some of the brightest and most hard-working women I know. My goal for this series is to collect stories from women in all levels of their career. The hope is that their journey and their advice will trigger something in you, and help you take the jump you need to achieve your personal level of success. Whether they are freelancers, founders of their own business, corporate employees, or students, this #LadiesWhoHustle series will showcase their unique talents and help you unveil yours.
My next #LadiesWhoHustle feature is a little bit different from what I usually focus on, but her passion and drive inspired me so much, I knew I had to get an interview with her! Astronaut Ariana, or Andriani Ariana Kalavana is an 18 year, currently in her last year of high school. She will being her undergraduate studies in September, where she will study aerospace engineering. She aspires to become an engineer and astronaut and is an advocate for women in STEM.
At such a young age, Ariana has made a name for herself online, and created a vision for how she wants to give back to the world. Read on to learn more about this awe-inspiring young lady and her journey to achieve her own version of success.
I am a high school student, currently in my last year!
What has given you the love for engineering and space?
At a young age, I dreamt of becoming an air hostess due to my love for airplanes and spending time in the sky. However, I originally wanted to become a pilot but due to gender stereotypes, I guess I changed my mind. Growing up, I started researching more about space and engineering until one very special day. Watching astronaut Karen Nyberg working on the ISS, I knew that I wanted to do that too. Especially since she was female and also a mom, it made me understand that women can pursue these occupations too. And so that is how my love for engineering and space flourished!
I too believe in the advocacy for women in STEM, and the importance to speak up about this issue. What has inspired you to be an advocate for women in STEM?
Growing up in a small city, I was constantly bombarded with gender stereotypes. Women can't become pilots, women can't do this or that. Of course, I knew that something was wrong from a young age but I didn't quite grasp it yet. When I found out that my mum wanted to become an architect but was told that she couldn't do so as a woman, it sparked something in me. Being a true supporter for what I wanted to do (and I thank her for that) I knew that I wanted to advocate for women in STEM in order to let more girls like m out there know that they can be whatever they want to be.
What is one piece of advice you would give to young women aspiring to study STEM?
Follow your dreams and work hard. We can overcome gender pay gaps and stereotypes, together.
What do you love most about space?
The mystery. Everything about space holds so much uncertainty. We think we know so much, yet we don't know much at all. That's the fun of it. The universe is such a vast place and there is so much to discover yet. I love how it is left so untouched and pure. I find space as a goal that keeps so many people constantly motivated to want to discover more, as it feeds our curiosity.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Working on the first human mission to Mars here on Earth, or who knows, maybe even in space!
And what about space exploration? Where do you see it going in 10 years?
I see space exploration drastically changing in 10 years. Possibly a second space race will be on but not between nations, but instead between companies. Who will send the first human to Mars? Will it be a woman? Will it be a man? We really don't know yet! Honestly, I can't wait for what the future holds. Regarding the universe, I hope we get to know more about dark energy/matter and the true origin and fate of our universe.
What has been your biggest career struggle so far?
Gender stereotypes would certainly be one as so many people constantly question what I want to study, since I am a woman. On a daily basis, I'm told that I may not find a job or that my future occupation is a really challenging one. However, I never let these comments take me down, instead I try to grow from them.
What about your biggest win?
When I was invited to intern at Harvard T.H. Chan school for Public Health in the Nanotechnology Engineering department. Working on groundbreaking scientific research surrounded by amazing people was honestly life changing.
Since the first moon landing up until now, women have started filling more roles within space exploration. Where do you see the role of women progressing in this field?
Thriving. I see women changing the field of space exploration. We need the different mindset that women have to offer in this field. Imagine including the rest of the population that was excluded for so many years from this field. I'm sure the contribution of women will most certainly take space exploration a step further than it ever did!
What is one thing people get wrong about your industry?
The challenges it has.
What is the best piece of career advice you've received?
Never allow stress to mix with your career. If you do, then you'll lose the spark that go you into your career in the first place.
Unfortunately, not all advice is good advice. Have you received any bad career advice?
However hard you try, men will always dominate in engineering.
At such a young age, you seem to have your career plan set up. Is there someone in particular that gives you inspiration and motivates you?
Two years ago, I met a NASA scientist named Karen McBride. Seeing all that she had achieved as a woman in the field really inspired and motivated me to work hard. She gave me the curiosity rover pin, in order to always remember to stay curious, and I've kept it with me since.
Flying must be such a thrill! Tell us a little bit about the first time you flew a plane and the emotions that you felt.
If I'd say it in two words, I'd say ecstatic and scared. I had never flown in a light, small airplane before so it was something extremely unknown to me. However, when I was actually able to steer it around the sky, it was love at first flight!
What is one thing that you hope to accomplish in your career?
I hope to contribute to sending the first humans to Mars, and of course the first woman to Mars. Whilst simultaneously, make even a small contribution to break the glass ceiling that women in my career face.
What are you the most proud of?
The fact that I overcame my fear of not being good enough in this field.
You seem like you have so much going on! How do you relax?
I try to do what I do with as little stress as possible. If I didn't do that then it would all be way too overwhelming. However, every day I dedicate around 2 hours to myself to work on my fitness, where I go to the gym or do yoga, which really relaxes me. Also, I make sure to sleep well and go out with friends at least once a week!
Favourite way to sweat: burpees!
Favourite city: gotta love Boston.
Favourite food: pasta anytime.
Spirit animal: Elon Musk.
Favourite book: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro,
Favourite planet: Jupiter.
Astronaut you most look up to: Astronaut Karen Nyberg!
Favourite constellation: Orion.
Get in touch with Ariana:
YouTube: Astronaut Ariana
Know anyone that would be great to feature in the #LadiesWhoHustle series? Connect with me on Instagram to nominate them - or yourself!